O2 Ritz Manchester
19th October 2021
Ella Eyre staked her claim to be the queen of British pop with a set full of absolute bangers at Manchester’s O2 Ritz. Paul Clarke joined the party and Melanie Smith took the photos.
Once upon a time, Ella Eyre was the go-to voice for dance acts like Rudimental and Sigala and she released her debut solo album Feline way back in 2015. Apart from a few singles, Eyre had been pretty quiet since, but tonight she staked out a claim to be the queen of British pop.
Eyre had been unlucky with the pandemic as this tour was cancelled twice, and her long-awaited second album had also been delayed, but she still managed to attract a sell-out crowd for her comeback tour. And what a crowd. It had the feel of a particularly raucous school prom mixed with a Club 18-30 pub crawl in Ibiza as a bunch of shirtless lads strutted around in just beach trunks. It was a typically grim Manc night outside, so you had to admire one hardy soul who wandered around in a bikini.
From the moment Eyre bounded on stage in a transparent blue coat, snazzy trousers and long braids she looked every inch the star, and that must come from the belief you possess one of the best pop voices around.
There can be a lot of snobbery around pop acts as if they are somehow inferior to tired old punk acts regurgitating their ‘hits’ for a load of bald blokes. And, of course, that nostalgia has a place, but so does Eyre who created a riotous house party for fans, some of whom were in junior school when she had her first number one hit with Rudimental.
She had the crowd from the first note her well-drilled live band hit, as they blasted into recent single Answerphone Eyre bounced around the stage and was clearly delighted to be back, as the obligatory wall of phones recorded her every move. Crowds like this can be very different to other gigs as the five young women in front of us were not only singing along, but created a live Instagram feed as the show progressed. It’s rare to be interrupted mid-gig and be asked to take a picture, but such is the relaxed atmosphere generated by these wonderfully polite and spirited young music fans, you don’t mind.
And acts like Eyre actually engage with their audience and understand people (and in many cases their parents) had paid good money to be here, so talking to an audience was hardly the chore some acts find to be. That energy and connection came right back in the numerous singalongs throughout the show.
Like many of her competitors including Anne-Marie (who took over vocal duties in Rudimental and Mabel), she sang driving pop songs based on her own emotional ups and downs, which clearly struck a chord as the audience kept joining in. Comeback was a wonderful smack down to a cheating boyfriend, (who always crawled back after being a dick). Eyre jogged on the spot at the top of the white stairs of a simple but effective setup. Another recent single, L.O.V.(e), proved to be another positive song that aimed to empower her fans.
It was a brave decision to put Rudimental’s smash Waiting All Night in the middle of the set, but no matter as the place erupted. The venue’s famous dancefloor took a hammering as the whole crowd decided to bounce up and down in time to a timeless banger. Things slowed down a bit for the ballad New Me as Eyre really let rip, that voice soared to smack down another idiot, before ripping into Business, even the backing singers got sassy. She closed with a massive Came Here For Love to a forest of arms. She really owned that collaboration with Sigala, as she should because it was her voice that made all those songs such big hits.
She came back for the encore with just her keyboard player, Eyre offered the empowering We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, which given the age profile of the crowd was an important anthem in the age of #MeToo. Their parents would have been delighted that a song about having respectful and loving relationships was delivered with real passion. Another collaboration with Sigala, Just Got Paid, sent this good-natured crowd home with a big smile on their faces.
It’s strange that such a quality performer isn’t regularly topping the charts in her own right, so she needs to get that second album out ASAP. With a decent festival season next year, Ella Eyre should be challenging Dua Lipa, Anne-Marie and Mabel for a pop crown she most definitely proved she has the pipes to win.
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Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.